Gardens Alive!

by Martha Worcester

In the last days of the great 2010 heat wave, Troy Community Gardens were all a flutter, the landscape alive with movement.   Walking down my row to get the hose, I noticed a long row of huge Zinnias with a halo of activity among the colorful blooms. Small butterflies in white (uh oh, the dreaded cabbage “moth”), yellow and pale green flitted along side orange, black and blue butterflies. The amount of activity in the one plot caused me to just stop, stand and look around. Everywhere, there was movement in the hot, humid air. And it wasn’t just mosquitoes (although there were plenty of them)!
The variety of butterflies (and moths?) got me thinking that my knowledge of butterflies has diminished. Of course I didn’t have a camera with me.  Were those mini Monarchs actually Monarchs, or something else altogether? What were all the little yellow guys? I found a great website for IDing Wisconsin butterflies.  According to the site webmaster, Mike Reese, they actually could have been small Monarchs. Or a completely different variety … Viceroy. There were plenty of the full size variety, as well. (Check out the butterflies app for your IPhone on the Wisconsin Butterflies website-- Butterfly ID at your fingertips!)
The huge number of white moths, whose larvae are known as Imported Cabbageworms (the green worms that eat your cabbage and show up unexpectedly in your broccoli just as you are tossing it into the pot), turn out to be butterflies. Somehow I always think the good guys are butterflies and the bad guys are moths. Not so. The small yellow ones, second in numbers to the white, are from a group knowns as Sulphurs. Ours were probably Little Yellow.
I did recognize the Black Swallowtails. They are just eye-poppers! The stunning caterpillars I found on my parsley this year are, in fact, Parsley Worms, which, like magic, turn into Black Swallowtails. The Bronze Copper was another stunner.
It’s so easy to be BUSY in the gardens … time is short, there are things to be done. But try to take a moment and just “BE” next time you are there. You never know what you might see.

Photos courtesy of Mike Reese,

at 9:47am by